Reigning Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne reveals that his mind was on F1 return when he joined the all-electric series but the mindset has totally changed now.
Vergne was dropped by Red Bull from Toro Rosso at the end of the 2014 F1 season when they decided to promote Daniil Kvyat to the senior seat and fast-track Max Verstappen’s arrival in the sport alongside another rookie Carlos Sainz Jr.
The Frenchman was handed the test driver role for 2015 even though he had beaten Kvyat in 2014 when the Toro Rosso car had multiple reliability issues. With that role, Vergne was also given a Formula E drive by Andretti Autosport.
The series had only begun that year under severe criticism of its existence. The Frenchman competed in nine races and scored his first podium in the season finale in London and ended the season in seventh with 70 points despite missing two rounds.
Even though Vergne was racing competitively in the inaugural season of the series, the Frenchman has admitted that his mindset at that time was still to return to F1 rather than think of seriously continuing in the electric series.
He had a Ferrari role then in 2015 and 2016 but with no hopes of a return in F1, Vergne started to shift his focus into Formula E and sportscar racing. His first year with Techeetah in 2016/17 ended up being instrumental which propelled to a title win in 2017/18.
The 28-year-old is a different person now as he says. “My mindset now is completely different from when I first entered the [Formula E] series,” he told to the Formula E website in an exclusive interview.
“When I left Formula One, I joined Andretti and it was like some sort of holiday break – I was not fighting for the title – I was some sort of a guest in a championship that was in its first season.
“I took it very easy and, of course, I only had one thing in mind and that was to come back to Formula One – I did not really care about any other things. It was the year I touched the bottom – both in my private life and professional life.
“It was clearly a very difficult moment to pass. Although I’m not the kind of guy that gives up, I had absolutely no trust in myself and no trust in people around me. I didn’t know who I was anymore.”
The change in attitude is sure to be seen especially after recent speculations that Vergne was in frame for a F1 return but he opted out with full concentration on Formula E. He has even signed a new long-term contract with DS Techeetah.
“The luck in my career has definitely been to end up in this championship and that it became what it is today,” he said. “The level of drivers now is so high…anyone in Formula E, if they do a good job, can have a shot at winning the race or even the title.
“It’s already a lot more challenging and will get more so. When you see drivers like my teammate [Andre Lotterer], three years ago, he couldn’t have cared less about an electric series and he changed his mind.
“He was the one that really wanted to get a seat in Formula E quickly. So many drivers would like to be racing in Formula E – it’s becoming a lot more difficult to get a seat in a good team here.
“There are no mistakes allowed in Formula E – in Formula One you have hundreds of laps before you get to Qualifying, where you have more laps, so it’s quite easy to extract the best from your car. In Formula E, it’s a different story.
“In Saudi Arabia, for example, we had three laps in the rain before Qualifying for one lap and then straight into racing. If you’re not at the top of your game at that moment, then you don’t score good points. That is the difficulty of it.
“It makes it quite complicated but I try to stay humble about what I’ve done. Winning the championship for me is in the past and now I’m on the same level as everyone else. I want to score as many points as possible.”